The perks of vacationing locally

Summer’s here. And people are getting back to traveling. However, in recent weeks, tens of thousands of travelers have found themselves stranded at airports due to flight delays and cancellations. And for almost everyone else, rising gas prices and travel costs in general, have become a major barrier to taking that dream vacation.

Fortunately, families in northern New York can escape to budget-friendly vacation spots that aren’t so far away that they’ll devastate an already dwindling bank account. There are many extraordinary and some truly world-class places to visit locally. Whether you crave an adventurous getaway, a relaxing lakeside beach, unrivaled fishing, great entertainment, or a few days of luxurious living, you can have just about any summer vacation you want right here. And you can improve your travel experience by researching local destinations ahead of time.

Sometimes we forget that we live in an area with literally millions of acres of publicly accessible land. We have incredible parks, recreation areas, and tracts of state land nearby, many with inexpensive campsites, and a few that still offer free backcountry camping.

The Adirondack Park alone covers more than 9,000 square miles and contains roughly 3,000 lakes, 30,000 miles of rivers and streams, and 2,000 miles of hiking trails. Hikers can summit any of 46 mountain peaks above 4,000 feet or enjoy several short trails leading to magnificent views and hidden natural wonders. And across the region, there are hundreds of towns and villages to explore, as well.

There’s no need to travel great distances when we live in an area recognized around the world for its majestic mountains, picturesque rural landscapes and world-class outdoor recreation. In fact, the Adirondack North Country isn’t just some place people go, it’s a place where people experience relaxing, as well as exhilarating activities, delightful restaurants, exciting nightlife, fascinating points of interest, and multitudes of opportunities for discovering the off-the-beaten-path places where the locals go.

Vacationers can wander around on foot, by car, or by boat through picturesque scenery in and around the Adirondack Park or along the St. Lawrence River and/or Lake Ontario, as well as Lake Champlain and/or Lake George. And what about canoeing or kayaking any, or several, of the countless other lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams that are here to enjoy.

There are countless area landmark locations and museums that sightseers and lovers of history can explore (e.g. Ausable Chasm, Fort Ticonderoga, The Wild Center and Wild Walk, Lake Placid Olympic Museum, John Brown Farm, Uihlein Sugar Maple Research and Extension Field Station, Almanzo Wilder Homestead, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (Adirondack Experience), The Saranac Laboratory Museum (Trudeau Laboratory), North Creek Depot Museum, The Alice T. Miner Museum, Hyde Collection Art Museum and Historic House, Akwesasne Cultural Center Museum, Adirondack Sky Center and Observatory).

For less thinking and more fun, there are casinos offering games, dining and live music. There are summer music series’ and festivals offering everything from bluegrass to jazz, and chamber music to zydeco (e.g. Songs on Mirror Lake, Norwood Village Green Concert Series, Alexandria Bay Summer Concert Series, Potsdam Community Performance Series, Lake George Music Festival, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, County Fairs, the Great New York State Fair).

There are water parks and amusement parks nearby, too (e.g. Enchanted Forest Water Safari, Six Flags Great Escape Lodge and Indoor Waterpark, Thunder Island Amusement Park, Lake George Expedition Park, Santa’s Workshop).

The variety of food and beverage businesses across the region is ample and diverse. You can experience great craft beverages from North Country microbrewers, vintners, and distillers, chat with the owner-artisans about their operations, get an up-close look at how great beers, wines, and spirits are made, and buy directly from the producers.

Or, you can enjoy their dutifully crafted products with a meal at a local restaurant. Almost every town has at least a couple of local eateries and/or bar-restaurants. Look for those that use locally-sourced ingredients. Select those places for take-out, too. And while you’re at it, look into locally made baked goods. And buy your produce and meats from local farmers. Shopping locally for food is one of the best ways to support local economies.

Visit and shop at local businesses. Check out local galleries. And, before you leave, take home a souvenir crafted by a local artist or craftsperson.

Cornell Cooperative Extension, or CCE, recognizes the value of building and preserving strong, vibrant, communities throughout the state. And CCE educators are always striving to improve quality of life for those who live and work in the counties they serve. They know that where and how we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars can actually dictate whether we strengthen local economies, giving rise to more prosperous communities; or curtail opportunities for small business growth and development, which inevitably devastates local economies over time.

As a retired CCE educator, I’d like to encourage everyone to vacation locally, this summer. And to support small, local businesses and, in doing so, play a role in building and sustaining strong, vital, vibrant, local communities that work well for everyone.


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